There is a village that when the rainy season is too late or the drought too long they move their Gods in to the midday sun. It is an act of aggression. They enter in to battle of wills with the Gods. ———–Akbar the Great Moghul Leader (1542-1605) is remembered as a wise and benevolent leader. He brought stability and humane leadership- greatly reducing the animosity between the many different religious groups in his kingdom. He was a fierce military leader but magnanimous in victory. He detested, and moved against, religious corruption- particularly in his native Islam. Moving throughout his life towards an understanding of spiritualism rather than religion, he hated organised religion. I am reading a particularly racist book at the moment; Akbar, Emperor of India, by Richard von Garbe. Written originally as a speech as a birthday present for a German Prince in 1909.
It’s racist in the sense that it has 19th century attitudes to the region, to the faiths of the region and is generally a bit snotty with a particularly low value placed on Indian human life.
It is a very pro Akbar book. It has some brilliant little stories in it. Akbar grew tired of the Islamic clerics saying that people were born knowing Arabic and inherently being of Islamic faith. To prove the point he selected 20 babies who at the point of being born were taken away and raised only by dumb nurses. For four years these children heard no spoken word.
At the end of four years the children spoke no language.
The children struggled to learn language for the rest of their lives. It’s a high price for a benevolent leader to impose on 20 new born babies to prove a point. Garbe makes clear that Akbar rewarded the parents for their sacrifice financially as mitigation. ———- Where formerly according to ancient tradition had stood the word Bismil?hi, “in the name of God,” there now appeared the old war cry All?hu akbar “God is great,” which came into use the more generally throughout Akbar’s court and then kingdom. His followers would subvert the emphasis in order to imply the reverse reading; “Akbar is God.” It drove the clerics potty. ———– The poet that Suman was so frustrated I didn’t know yesterday is in fact called Rabildranath Tagore. He is an extraordinary man, a poet translated in to every language, Nobel Prize winner and the only man ever to write two national anthems (India and Bangladesh). He set up India’s first co-operative bank for farmers to be able use, allowing them to borrow money for improvements.
He also set up a school for girls and if the farmer wanted a loan then his daughter must attend school.
He set up the first Open University to educate people who couldn’t afford it. He was a man of greatness. We’d know about him more I think if it wasn’t his ability to piss people off. He was friendly, at least for a time, with Mussolini who is not a guy you want in your phone book and was forever implicated in plots with people generally unliked to the nations of people who write the world’s cultural history.
Grahame Greene thought him over rated giving a great double slap with; “no-one but Mr. Yeats can still take his poems very seriously.” Anyway the reason I mention him was that I came across the beneath earlier and was more affected by it than I expected. One of the things becoming clear is how central cultural thinking is to Kolkata. How prized intellect, thought, artistry is. And the logic behind this is not connected to a justification taken from other worlds (financial, social) but from the art itself. But it’s not as I thought Art for Art’s sake. But rather; how else would one understand the world and why else would one live if it was not to understand. “Another notable play by Tagore, Dak Ghar (The Post Office), describes how a child?striving to escape his stuffy confines?ultimately “falls asleep” (which suggests his physical death). A story with worldwide appeal (it received rave reviews in Europe), Dak Ghar dealt with death as, in Tagore’s words, “spiritual freedom” from “the world of hoarded wealth and certified creeds”.
During World War II, Polish doctor and educator Janusz Korczak selected “The Post Office” as the play the orphans in his care in the Warsaw Ghetto would perform. This occurred on 18 July 1942, less than three weeks before they were to be deported to the Treblinka extermination camp. According to his main English-language biographer, Betty Jean Lifton, in her book The King of Children, Dr. Korszak thought a great deal about whether one should be able to determine when and how to die. He may have been trying to find a way for the children in his orphanage to accept death.” Even in the worst, most horrific of worlds art plays it’s part- no more futile than anything else. I haven’t finished this thinking but still- this horrible little story provoked a great deal of thought. “Dr. Korszak thought a great deal about whether one should be able to determine when and how to die.” I am sure he did. Just heard as I was posting that UNESCO has declared a year of Tagore to mark the 150 year anniversary of his birth. —————— Tomorrow I leave on a train for Purulia to visit makers of Chou Theatre. A physical theatre form combining dance and masks. The Maoists responsible for last month’s train bomb have announced that they are up to their bullshit again so the trains are locked down and the bomb squad is in. But we’re pretty confident that it will be sorted by tomorrow morning. It has to be, I have a 4.45 am call. Bloody Maoists. I won’t be back to Kolkata for three days. And I doubt there will be internet in the village. So I’ll see you then.